How to Style Built-in Cabinets
Shelf styling is one of our team’s favorite decorating techniques…
but it’s also one of the trickiest. We get questions about the process all the time, and although we’ve been doing it for years, we know how daunting it can be!
If you’re thinking about updating your shelfie or creating a styled shelf for the first time, keep scrolling for some inspiration!
Here’s our go-to shelf styling process:
Step 1: Create a blank canvas
No matter what kind of shelves we’re styling, we always empty our shelves first and everything out. That way, we can start fresh and see the space we’re working with in a new light. A blank canvas is helpful when styling anything, but in our opinion, especially built-ins!
Explore our McGee & Co 2021 Fall Collection here.
Take a mental inventory of what you’re working with. Start envisioning what pieces of decor you want to place next to each other and how you want to create groupings. What products do you want to be seen first? Is there anything missing? Anything you don’t want to include?
Pro tip: Take a photo of your before and after to see your progress. If you’re trying to build a design portfolio, don’t be afraid to share it on social media! Everyone loves a good before and after shot.
Textural storage pieces
Step 2: Consider what you’re working with
Once you have cleared everything from your shelves, look at what you already have, and start grouping your objects by size. This process makes it easier once you start styling, and it helps you to see the common thread in your pieces and consider what you may want to add to your collection.
See more of our 2021 Fall Collection at McGee & Co here.
Step 3: Ground the look with substantial pieces
Start by using your largest items first to create focal points to style around. Vases, baskets, bowls, art, or other large decor items are perfect for adding substance and visual weight to a built-in.
We typically like to stagger these items so that they don’t stack on top of each other and are not right next to each other, which helps create balance!
Stylist secret: It helps to place all of your similar objects at the same time. For example, style all of your vases, then your baskets, etc.
From our 2021 Fall Collection at McGee & Co.
Substantial décor favorites
Step 4: Start to create groupings with your smaller items
This next step can be the hardest part of the process, but also the most rewarding! We love to create groupings with our medium and small objects to fill in the spaces that our large pieces don’t occupy.
Stacking books, adding in boxes, and pairing two similar elements together are some of our favorite go-to’s. This is also the perfect time to add personal touches like family photos or collected objects to make it your own!
See more of our 2021 Fall Collection here.
Thanks for sharing with us these great tips!
Of course, Kim, thank you!
Thanks for the awesome tips! Any chance you will share the color white? I’m in the process of building and love the white of the built-ins you are styling. Thanks
Love these tips! When prepping for your install, do you moodboard and preplan particular pieces on the computer, or just pull and brings lots of options to play with?
Hi Claire! It depends, but usually a mix of both! We like to have a general idea of the mood we’re going for but stay flexible and play with things as we go.
I’d like to paint the back of my shelves. What kind (flat, satin, semi-gloss, etc.) and color is the white paint on your shelves?
What if you have one big open space? We have 2 niches on either side of our fireplace. Bellow the space are 2 cabinets. The niches are about 3’ wide by 2’ tall and about 2’ deep??
I love your ideas, I reorganized my bookshelf with the tip on avoiding same length and creating asymetry. You’d be surprised how much of a difference it made (I’m already sure you know.) Always love to read your blogs!
Hi Bella, thank you so much! We’re glad that we could help 🙂
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